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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Report of the Apiarian Exhibit.1

By Orel L. Hershiser, Superintendent, Buffalo.

Thumbnail: 111 pounds of comb honey

One Hundred and Eleven Pounds of Comb Honey Gathered By One Colony of Bees During the Exposition. Photo Credit: n/a. Source: Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902 / Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902.

The Board of General Managers, with a view to obtaining a complete and comprehensive exhibit of the agricultural resources of the State, on October 11, 1900, placed Mr. Orel L. Hershiser, of Buffalo, in charge of the apiarian department as superintendent, with instructions to use every effort to bring out such a bee and honey exhibit as would be educational and fairly representative of the State's rank as one of the first in the quality and quantity of her apiarian products, and thus to encourage the extension of the industry and popularize the use of New York State honey.

The superintendent entered upon his duties immediately. Active steps were taken to inform the apiarists of the State, without discrimination, as to the extent and character of the proposed exhibit and of the arrangements for transportation, installation and care of objects sent for exhibition, provided by the Board of General Managers. There were collected 1237 pounds of comb honey and 2120 pounds of extracted honey of the product of the season of 1900, to be installed as a honey exhibit at the opening of the exposition. During July, August and September much of this honey was replaced by exhibits of the crop of 1901. By this means the highest possible standard of excellence was, at all times, maintained. These last-mentioned exhibits aggregated 2672 pounds of comb honey, and 1996 pounds of extracted honey.

Thumbnail: Apiarian Exhibit

Apiarian Exhibit. Photo Credit: n/a. Source: Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902 / Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902.

The space allotted the exhibit was located in the westerly gallery of the Agricultural Building and was, approximately sixteen and one-half feet deep by thirty-nine feet front. Upon this space four exhibition show cases were constructed, three in which to show apiarian products and one in which to locate a model apiary. The cases were of the uniform height of ten feet from the floor: the three cases for the exhibition of honey being seven feet high by two and one-half feet wide, inside measure. The upper portions of all the cases were finished with a cornice, and the tops of the corners were ornamented with imitation straw bee hives. One case, eleven and one-half feet long, was placed at the east end of, and at right angles to the long dimension of the space, its south end resting on the north line of the main passageway, thus leaving a space between the north end of the case and the wall of the building which formed a portion of the space for a small storeroom. In this case was exhibited the honey produced in the model apiary that was in opera-tion at the exhibit after June 15, 1901, till the close of the exposition. A large case, twenty-three feet long, rested with its outer edge on the long dimension of the space and on the north line of the main passageway, with its east end about five and one-half feet from the west side of the case first above described. A case of the same dimensions as the first above mentioned placed at the west end of, and at right angles to, the long dimension of the space, its south end resting on the north line of the main passageway, with its east side about five and one-half feet from the west end of the large case second above described, thus leaving a suitable passageway between the north end of the case and the wall of the building. opening into the exhibits of beekeepers supplies. Thus the entire space was inclosed, forming a spacious booth with ample passageways at either end opening into the main passageway. The booth was well lighted with two large semi-circular windows, the base at the floor of which was nearly twelve feet long, and the extreme height about seven feet. In front of the westerly of these windows was placed a long table, appropriately draped, upon which was exhibited extracted honey in artistic glass jars. Upon this table and in the two cases last above described were shown many fine individual exhibits from representative apiarists in various parts of the State, noted for the production of fine apiarian products.

Thumbnail: The North Side of the Agriculture Building

The Agriculture Building (Facing North). Photo Credit: n/aSource: Kerry S. Grant. The Rainbow City: Celebrating Light, Color and Architecture at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo 1901. Buffalo, N. Y.: Canisius College Press, 2001. p. 67. Image from the collection of the Buffalo and Erie Country Historical Society.

The case in which the model apiary was located was constructed and placed against the wall and inclosing tile easterly of the two large windows, all the lights of which were removed to enable the bees to fly to and from the fields to gather honey. This case was four and one-half feet wide by twelve and one-half feet long, and formed a spacious room, opening through the large window to the outside, and with a door at either end, the glass construction enabling visitors to see the bees at work and observe the various apiarian manipulations without danger or fear. The east end of this case was closed by a partition which divided it from the storeroom. On a platform, six inches high, and running the entire length of the case, were placed five colonies of bees, and on a shelf, about four feet above the platform, were placed five other colonies. During the summer and while at the exposition these ten colonies of bees gathered and stored, and there was harvested therefrom, 481 3/4 pounds of extracted honey, and 523 one-pound boxes of comb honey, which averaged slightly less than one pound each. All this honey was white, and gathered from white, alsike and sweet clover, and linden blooms. Most of the colonies of bees in this exhibit were Italians. There were some hybrids and one colony of pure blacks, the latter making the largest yield, viz., 111 one-pound boxes, weighing 102 14-16 pounds, and 30 pounds of extracted honey. All the approved styles of bee hives were used, including the Langstroth dovetailed, the Langstroth-Falcon air spaced, the Langstroth-Root chaff and the Danzenbaker. The bees were managed with the especial object of practically demonstrating the methods of producing both comb and extracted honey. Frequent exhibitions were given out of the various manipulations of daily occurrence to the apiarist, in operating the honey extractor and in removing the combs of honey from the hives and replacing them with empty combs to be again ii filled by the bees. The results were highly satisfactory. This novel and very practical exhibit of a working apiary, where the bees could be seen going from their hives in quest of honey and returning heavy laden, the product of their toil between 90 and 100 of honey per colony, shown in connection therewith besides an abundance of honey for winter stores left in the hives, the 111 one-pound boxes of honey, weighing 102 14-16 pounds, the product of one hive gathered at the exposition between June 15 and September 15, 1901, shown separately, all attracted much attention, and the comments thereon were frequent and very complimentary.

The space was fully occupied with fine and representative exhibits, some of the larger of which it was necessary to curtail in order that all who sent contributions might have the privilege of having their products shown.

Thumbnail: Ten colonies of working bees

Ten Colonies of Working Bees. Photo Credit: n/aSource: Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902 / Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902.

The public manifested much interest in the exhibit and the superintendent and his assistants were kept busy answering queries and disseminating apicultural information during exhibition hours. Although the use of honey is of very high antiquity, much ignorance still prevails relative to its production and it seems not to be generally known that prior to the introduction and use of sugar, which was comparatively recent, honey was the principal sweet.

Formerly bees were hived and kept in boxes of a nearly square shape of about one and one-half cubic feet capacity; in straw skeps the form of which is familiar to almost every one as an emblem of industry; and, in timbered countries, sections of hollow logs, called "gums," were frequently used. The honey from these hives was obtained in the fall, after frost had killed the flowers, by smothering the bees with the fumes of burning sulphur or brimstone, the honey thus obtained being a mixture of that which had been gathered from the various varieties of flowers during the summer. The science of modern beekeeping dates from the invention of the movable comb hive by L. L. Langstroth, in 1852, which invention revolutionized beekeeping and honey production. By the use of the moveable comb hive honey can be obtained without destroying the bees, and that from each variety of flower separately if desired. Following Langstroth's invention of the movable comb hive, came that of comb foundation, which is made of beeswax and is used to save the labor of the bees in comb building to a great extent, and to obtain the building of the combs evenly, uniformly and in the place desired by the beekeeper; the honey extractor, by means of which the honey may be extracted from the movable combs, without injury to their structure, leaving them in perfect condition to be replaced in the hive to be again filled with honey by the bees, thus saving them much labor in comb building and resulting in greatly increased yields of honey; and the bee smoker, by the use of which the hive may be opened, the honey removed and the bees handled with little danger of stings. Many other beekeeping inventions, of lesser importance, have enriched the science of apiculture, until now the returns in honey, from a given number of colonies of bees, may be determined with comparative accuracy.

Bees are usually kept and managed by the beekeeper for the honey they produce, and to the apiarist who devotes intelligent thought and well-directed effort to the pursuit, the promises of reward in dollars and cents are as great as may be expected in most other rural occupations. Usually from 75 to 100 colonies may be profitably kept in one place, if other parties, within a mile or two, have not overstocked the locality. Localities with a greater abundance of honey-producing flora will support correspondingly larger apiaries. In the State of New York the most common source of honey is white clover, but basswood, apple blossom, buckwheat, sweet clover and golden-rod honey is extensively produced in various portions of the State. All the good sources of honey are not usually found in the same region, but two or more in the same place may nearly always be depended upon. In this State, bees well managed will produce an average of about 75 pounds of extracted honey, annually, per colony, and instances are numerous where from 100 to 200 pounds have been obtained.

Nearly twice as much extracted as comb honey may be obtained from a given number of bees for the reason that, when running the bees for the former, they are saved the labor of building the combs.

The keeping and breeding of bees within the State up to the limit of the flora to support them profitably to the apiarist would add greatly to the wealth of the rural populations, and save, for human consumption, a vast quantity of the purest and most wholesome of sweets.

It is safe to say that three-quarters of the nectar secreted by the flowers goes to waste for want of bees to gather it. In some portions of the State bees are kept quite generally and the stock is sufficiently abundant. In other portions many more could be profitably located. The annual product of several of our most extensive bee-keepers reaches from 40000 to 75000 pounds annually, and one beekeeper, Mr. J. E. Hetherington, of Cherry Valley, has produced and sold, in a single season, over 100000 pounds of comb honey.

Thumbnail: Exhibit of Honey

Exhibit of Honey. Photo Credit: n/aSource: Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902 / Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that bees are the chief agents in fertilizing fruit bloom, and that without their aid horticulture, as a pursuit, would be greatly injured, if not destroyed. Where bees have been excluded from portions of the blossoms of fruit trees such portions have been found to bear little or no fruit, while the remaining branches of the same trees, the flowers of which had been visited by bees, have fruited abundantly. It seems not too much to say that, from an eco-nomic and scientific standpoint, the production of honey by the bee is a mere incident, and that the great end of its existence is to fertilize the fruit bloom. Bees, unlike most other insects, survive the winter in colonies, furnishing vast numbers of insects, eager for the nectar secreted in the fruit bloom, at a period when other insects that might perform this necessary service are very scarce. Many horticulturists keep bees for the benefits they render the fruit trees, and it would be the of wisdom for every fruit grower to keep the bees necessary for this purpose.

A few years ago a prominent chemist of the United States, in a spirit of pleasantry, made the unfortunate statement through the columns of a leading magazine that comb honey was being manufactured from artificial comb, which, after being filled with glucose, was capped over by appropriate machinery in a man-ner so perfect as to deceive the purchaser. A retraction followed, upon being pressed for proof of the statement, but an irreparable injury seems to have been done to apiarists. Falsehood is more persistent than truth, and ever since currency was given the false statement would-be scientists, with a greater love for sensation than for the profession of classifying facts, relations and laws, occasionally a careless journalist, and many other persons whose common sense ought to teach them better, have been passing the untruth along, and this in face of a standing reward for the last twelve or more years by the A. I. Root Company, of Medina, Ohio, of $1000 to any one who will produce one pound of the artificial article. The fact is comb honey has never been artificially made and such an achievement is as im-possible as to make artificial strawberries, or eggs that will hatch. No two combs honey are identical in appearance, which would be the case if artificially made by machinery. Any one purchasing comb honey is absolutely sure of obtaining comb built by the bees, except the comb foundation, the honey of which is placed therein and capped over by them, in the good old-fashioned way.

It was felt that too much knowledge, on the lines herein touched upon, could not be disseminated, and we feel assured that the generous aid to apiculture of the State, extended by the Board of General Managers, has not been in vain, and that much good will flow therefrom, both to apiarists and horticulturists, as well as the consumers of honey and fruits.


1. Unless otherwise noted, the above text and images are reproduced in full from the Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902, (Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902) pp. 233-237.

2. This image of the north face of the Agriculture Building did not appear in the Report of the Board of General Managers.